SAN FRANCISCO — Before the start of this three-game series, manager Bruce Bochy was asked whether he was ready to announce his second half rotation. Bochy was not, noting that he wanted to get through these three games. After the second game against the A’s, a 4-3 loss, he admitted that there’s now a discussion that needs to be had before any decisions are made public.
Jeff Samardzija’s second start back from the disabled list was a step backwards. The right-hander admitted that he had trouble keeping his pitching shoulder loose, an issue that recently put him on the disabled list for 35 games. After that long layoff, Samardzija insisted he felt great. Clearly he does not, and the Giants have to decide when he’ll make his next start, or if he even will.
“We’ll talk about it. We’ll talk about what we think is best,” Bochy said. “I’ll talk to Jeff on how he felt and how he feels tomorrow. He wants to be out there, but you can tell he was a little off tonight.”
Samardzija backed that point, answering a question about his health by talking about how much fun he’s having with this team and how he wants to contribute. But the Giants do not have much margin for error, and the first six innings Saturday seemed to indicate an intriguing choice moving forward.
Samardzija gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in four innings, and only an impressive Steven Duggar catch in the gap kept it from being worse. Derek Holland, the man waiting in the wings, struck out the first five hitters he faced while throwing two scoreless innings of relief.
Samardzija threw just 29 of 55 pitches for strikes and got three swings-and-misses. Holland got eight in much more limited time, throwing 19 of 26 pitches for strikes. Samardzija is known as the flamethrower, but his fastball maxed out at just 92.5 mph and he averaged around 90 mph with the pitch, which is 94-95 when most effective. Holland threw his fastest pitch of the season, a 94.7 mph fastball to Matt Olson, and averaged 93.3 mph with his heater.
The timing lines up well for the Giants if they're ready to make a change. They have four days off, then three in Oakland, where Samardzija certainly would not be asked to pitch. After that, there’s an off day. If the Giants want to get creative or give Samardzija an extended breather, now is the time. Given his diminished velocity and lack of command, it’s apparent something needs to be done.
“It’s a process right now,” Samardzija said. “(The shoulder) didn’t warm up quite the way we wanted it to. You go out there and do what you can do with what you’ve got. I’m not making excuses.”
Samardzija did keep the Giants in the game, and they had a shot even in the ninth. Blake Treinen, whose sinker is as nasty as it gets, walked a pair with two outs, but Brandon Crawford struck out. The inning was missing one component. Brandon Belt would have been due up second, but he was ejected after the fourth for arguing a check-swing call. Belt had been rung up by third base umpire Greg Gibson in the bottom of the inning on a questionable call. He argued as he took his position in the top of the fifth. Bochy said he would talk to Belt.
“At some point, you’ve got to let it go,” he said. “Once he went out there and started arguing again, you’re going to get thrown out. That can’t happen in a game like this.”